15 December 2016

Highest-paying German Science Award

Prof. Dr. Britta Nestler is granted the 2017 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize in the amount of 2.5 million euros by the German Research Foundation

Britta Nestler, professor at the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) receives the 2017 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize by the German Research Foundation (DFG). Coming with 2.5 million euros it is Germany’s largest monetary science prize. DFG honors Britta Nestler for her research in computer-based materials science. It is the first time in the history of the Leibniz Prize that the prizewinner is teaching and researching at a university of applied sciences. The awards ceremony for the 2017 Leibniz Prizes will be held on 15 March in Berlin where Britta Nestler and nine scientists of other research disciplines will receive the prizes.

“The Leibniz Prize is another proof of Professor Dr. Britta Nestler’s excellent research in computer-based materials science”, emphasizes President Professor Dr. Karl-Heinz Meisel. “It is only due to the joint efforts of the state of Baden-Württemberg, the KIT and Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences that the research achievements at both universities in Karlsruhe became possible, when she accepted her additional appointment as professor at the KIT in 2010 and thus continues her research in the city and state of Baden-Württemberg. Her academic career is a success story. Numerous prizes - among them the 2007 State Research Award of Baden-Württemberg - have honored her scientific achievements so far. The now awarded Leibniz Prize marks another step in the outstanding scientific career of Professor Dr. Britta Nestler.”

In 2001, Prof. Dr. Britta Nestler took up her professorship at the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences (HsKA) at the faculty of Computer Science and Business Information Systems, where she was appointed Director of the Computational Materials Science and Engineering department of the Institute of Materials and Processes in 2008. With her research team, she investigates how microstructures of various materials can be visualized by means of computer-based simulation using mathematical-physical models. The new technology contributes to explain how material properties react when undergoing different processing conditions and methods or within varying material compositions. Using these theoretical findings, new tailor-made materials can be developed at the computer. “These structures are hardly visible to the eye“, explains Professor Dr. Britta Nestler. “The simulation of microstructures via computer, however, allows me to virtually zoom into a material and to take a look at its multi-physical properties from various perspectives.”

Computer simulation enables the researchers to gain new knowledge about processes, which were previously not visually representable, such as processes during the production of casting products. It is not possible to monitor, control or trigger crystal growth during melting processes since the temperature is so high. The computer simulation generates a three-dimensional presentation and allows the analysis of different materials in molten metal during the solidification process. With the creative application and advancement of the phasing field model, Professor Dr. Britta Nestler obtained extraordinary scientific findings, being of great practical relevance: her simulations predict crack propagation in construction material such as brake discs; using this knowledge their durability can be increased.

Since October 2008, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences (HsKA) have been operating a joint graduate school (Graduiertenkolleg) in the area of researching simulations of microstructures. When the School was founded, it was the only joint research training group of a university of applied sciences and a traditional university in Germany that was sponsored by the German Research Foundation (DFG), and even today there are only two such schools in Germany. The results to date, as well as further plans, have convinced the experts – the DFG is sponsoring the Graduate School for further 4.5 years with around 6 million euros. Since the winter term 2011/12, another joint doctoral school has been established and is sponsored by the state of Baden-Württemberg by giving scholarships to the twelve doctoral candidates coming from both universities. Under the title “Analysis of Structural Conditions and Process Assessment”, the PhD scholars, supervised by Prof. Dr. Britta Nestler and her colleagues, investigate experimentally as well as theoretically the processes of structure formation in different material systems for a large number of processes. They are concerned with topics such as structure formation during sintering processes, coarsening processes in poly-crystalline multi-stage materials, fracture behavior of wolfram on the microscopic scale and the relation between microstructural changes and mechanical stress.

Britta Nestler studied physics and mathematics at RTWH Aachen University, where she also received her doctorate. In 2001, Nestler took up a professorship in the faculty of Computer Science and Business Information Systems at Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences, where she then was appointed Director of the Computational Materials Science and Engineering department of the Institute of Materials and Processes in 2008. In the same year, she established the Steinbeis Transfer Center “Materials Simulation and Process Optimization” which is headed by her until today. In 2009, she accepted her current chair at KIT, where she became cooperative head of the Institute for Applied Materials in 2010.

In addition to the State Research Award (2007) of the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts, she received the State Teaching Award in 2009 and the Research Prize of Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences in 2014. On the international level, she was granted the Materials Science and Technology Prize of the Federation of European Materials Societies (FEMS) in 2004, and the Richard-von-Mises Prize of the Society for Applied Mathematics and Mechanics (GAMM) in 2002.

Since 1986, the Leibniz Prize has been awarded annually by DFG. It was established to honor outstanding scientists for research in all areas of science. The prize money in the amount of about 2.5 million euros can be spent by the winners according to their own ideas and without bureaucratic expenditure for their scientific work within a period of up to seven years. Since 1986, 348 Leibniz Prizes have been granted. The Prize is considered to be one of the most important science awards worldwide; seven Leibniz Prize winners were also awarded the Nobel Prize afterwards.